Taumalolo to be the first non–Australian to be immortalised

ScottWoodward.me Roar Guru

By ScottWoodward.me, ScottWoodward.me is a Roar Guru

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    It was 2008 on a cold winter’s night. I was sitting in the 100-year-old stand (named after Keith Barnes the next year) with the new Roosters Recruitment Manager Peter O’Sullivan at Leichhardt Oval.

    “Have a look at this kid”, Sully quipped. “He is only 15”.

    Although the youngest player on the field “this kid” was the biggest, but was still one of the fastest with exceptional leg speed and had the rare ability to step off both feet at pace

    His name was Vaai (call me Jason) Taumalolo and was recruited by the North Queensland Cowboys at age 14 while playing for a New Zealand under 16s touring team.

    It was no surprise that he went on to become the youngest ever player to debut for the Cowboys aged 17 years, two months and 21 days, when he came off the interchange bench against the Bulldogs. It was Round 24 and I mentioned in commentary to Peter Tunks on radio that this young Jason Taumalolo reminded me of the great Arthur Beetson as he would create a nightmare for defences.

    Fast forward to the 2017 World Cup, and Jason Taumalolo, still only 24, is now established as the game’s best big forward.

    Arthur Beetson and Johnny Raper are the only two forwards named in the current list of rugby league immortals; both played in a different era with different rules and with no analytics available and limited vision – so it is folly to even compare them with a modern day player.

    Sonny Bill Willliams and Sam Burgess were the two highest-rated modern day big forwards in my system, and the media compared Taumalolo to the great SBW in 2012 when he was only 19 after he played 17 matches for the Cowboys, scoring five tries off the bench.

    Sam Burgess is the stand out best English forward in the modern game, but even he was made look average when he clashed with an inspired Taumalolo while trying to win a place in the RLWC Final for Tonga against the Kangaroos.

    England won the match, but Taumalolo won the contest against the great Englishman running 222 metres from 18 brutal runs.

    Displaying a massive engine, he made 153 metres in the second half that almost created a huge upset for his beloved Mate Ma’a.

    Jason Taumalolo Tonga Rugby League World Cup 2017

    (NRLPhotos/Scott Davis)

    Taumalolo achieved 205 metres on average in his 26 NRL matches last season with Paul Gallen (183m), David Klemmer (167m) and Sea Eagle Martin Taupau (163m) the next best.

    Taumalolo’s career really took off when Paul Green was appointed head coach at the Cowboys in 2014 and he made the call to make him a starting player in the top 13 at age 21. He was previously being used as an impact man off the bench, playing largely on the edge and often relegated to the Queensland Cup.

    To start Taumalolo in the important position of lock forward (same position as John Raper) and play long minutes raised an eyebrow with pundits, but Green’s move was a master stroke which was to help bring home the club’s initial premiership the following season.

    Green and Taumalolo changed the way a typical lock plays.

    The wily former halfback knew he had a Rolls Royce and did not want to waste his ability to bust open a game by making big tackle numbers, which is typical for the prototype lock. He has the luxury of having tackling machines Ethan Lowe and Gavin Cooper on the edges and they also have been brilliant in covering the middle when possible.

    Taumalolo averaged a respectable 28 tackles, but his job was to hit the ball up hard and execute a quick play the ball, and don’t worry about passing like an Artie Beetson would.

    The coach knew that a big Taumalolo hit up and either Johnathan Thurston or Michael Morgan at first reviver would be a winning combination; it would be the worst nightmare for opposition coaches.

    He does not have Raper’s cover defence and ball skills, or Beetson’s second phase play talent, but no player has ever dominated the middle like Tauamlolo has – and he is just getting started.

    The argument as to who is the best big forward (hookers not included) ever to play the game is always good pub chatter, but statistically there is only one Jason Taumalolo. He stands alone at age 24.

    He only needs to attain longevity to be the first non-Australian to be immortalised.

    The astute Cowboys management have put up $10 million to say that is just a formality.

    You would think Artie and JR would approve.

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    The Crowd Says (93)

    • January 11th 2018 @ 7:08am
      Man Bearpig said | January 11th 2018 @ 7:08am | ! Report

      He has the ball skills, I just don’t think Green wants him to offload. As time goes on, I see him moving back to an edge, and become an offloading machine.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2018 @ 7:38am
        ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

        Man,
        The problem with offloads is they lead to errors and Green was brilliant in getting the Cowboys to the GF against the Storm with an injured team by playing smart.
        It is hard to imagine Taumalolo continuing with these type of hit ups without injury but he seems indestructible so far. The Cowboys deserve all the credit for taking a long term punt on him.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 9:21am
          ask said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

          You are right Scott, he can’t play that way forever. injuries will be come a regular part of his life and teams will do different things to nullify his effectiveness (though that said this hasn’t been as easy as it was for fifita, but they aren’t in the same league; no pun intended). I hope as he ages and loses his speed he can be more of a roaming lock so he can move around to increase his effectiveness across the park and that may open up more ball playing. Also with Scott back and McLean in this year, he will need to shoulder nowhere near the load in the middle as last year

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2018 @ 10:01am
            ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

            ask,
            I dont see him changing anything for a few years yet. The Cowboys very own “money baller” is Scott Bolton who was amazing last year under difficult circumstances. He avg 131m from 14 runs and made 31 tackles. Not sure he will lose his starting spot, he certainly deserves to keep it.

            • January 11th 2018 @ 10:50am
              ask said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

              No I don’t think it needs to change yet but I’d rather they evolve his game earlier than wait and try and address injuries long after the fact. You’re right re Bolton, I think he deserves to maintain his starting spot and let McLean come off the bench. that said I’d prefer the guys who got them to the gf keep their spots but that won’t happen with the calibre of Scott and McLean and who could blame them for that, that’s a conundrum most coaches would prefer to have.

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2018 @ 1:39pm
                ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

                Nice problem to have ask

              • Roar Rookie

                January 11th 2018 @ 2:14pm
                Joe said | January 11th 2018 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

                Great problem to have and I think they should play him and Bolton same as they did at the Storm. Some games Mclean starts and some games Bolton starts with Scott as the consistent starting prop. At the Storm Jessie was the only consistent starting prop with Mclean, NAS and Glasby starting in rotation. Actually with Scott coming back from injury he might like to rotate from the bench as well. Long season ahead so share the load.

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2018 @ 2:40pm
                ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

                Hi Joe,
                They do not have huge forward depth and will be skinny during Origin although they get to keep Thurston this year who will partner with Martin.

          • Roar Pro

            January 11th 2018 @ 3:02pm
            Adam Hayward said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

            I think the modern day player’s fitness and endurance levels have enhanced dramatically in recent years, as has the ability to heal from injuries quicker. Then there’s the modern day training programs modified specifically to suit the needs of individual players. He may suffer a couple of injuries during his career but with a bit of luck, I don’t think injuries will “become a part of his life” as you put it.

            • Roar Guru

              January 11th 2018 @ 5:15pm
              ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

              Adam,
              If you are correct then he will be a steal at $10m

        • Roar Rookie

          January 11th 2018 @ 3:10pm
          3_Hats SSTID 2014 said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

          Madge got the Rabbitohs to win a Premiership with boring footy also.

          It is great to win but we want to be entertained.
          If you are boring and lose that is what happens to coaches, they get sacked!
          That is what happened to Maguire!

          I would much prefer to be entertained and lose a few!

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2018 @ 5:18pm
            ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

            Hats
            I dont agree the rabbits were boring.
            They had a great DH running 9, 2 clever halfs, GI and the entertaining Sam Burgess.

            • Roar Guru

              January 12th 2018 @ 7:37am
              The Barry said | January 12th 2018 @ 7:37am | ! Report

              I don’t agree either. I think that playing style morphed into something very boring…but in 2014 (as much as it pains me to admit) they were pretty dynamic and exciting to watch.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 8:28am
      Greg Ambrose said | January 11th 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      Another team in the NRL with two future immortals playing at the same time perhaps. One thing I really like about JT ,the second, is his fair play and lack of nonsense. I suppose some of the hot heads add colour to the game but it is easier to respect players like Steve Menzies and Taumalolo.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2018 @ 10:09am
        ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Greg,
        Now that the NRL own the “Immortals” we do not know the criteria, the rules.
        That said if Churchill is in then Slater should be and Cam Smith is a given along with Thurston so that means the trial set down for Suncorp in bris between the Cowboys and the Storm on Feb 23 will feature 4 future immortals.
        I would like to see the NRL be pro-active and name Thurston and Smithy now prior to this trial as a wonderful opportunity for kids to actually watch 2 playing immortals

        • January 14th 2018 @ 3:33pm
          Knight Vision said | January 14th 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

          There’s a reason why it’s a 5 year waiting period after retirement and thats to avoid the hyperbole that surrounds a player when he’s currently still playing and avoid admitting a player not worthy of the sanctity of immortal status.

          • Roar Guru

            January 15th 2018 @ 11:05am
            ScottWoodward.me said | January 15th 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            Knight,
            Again we do not know the rules that say we MUST wait 5 years+.
            Taumalolo has been playing NRL now for 7 years and played 130 games. Beetson played for 14 years for Balamin, Easts and the Eels in 221 games, Raper played for 12 years for Newtown and the Dragons in 222 games. It should be noted that there was no national comp with the NSWRL running the show.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 10:35am
        Peter Phelps said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        At 24 it way way to early to be talking about immortal status.

        There are lots of very very good players around that will via for that title – Thurston, Cronk, Smith, Lockyer even perhaps Slater and DCE and lots lots more. Seeing that we don’t exactly give these titles out like lollies at a fairground, I think there is a very long way to go before Jason would fit the bill.

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2018 @ 1:45pm
          ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

          Peter,
          We dont know the official rules so that means we can talk about the subject anytime, at any age.
          The context of what I said was about him attaining longevity.
          Let me say that I have spoken with recruitment managers and Origin coaches and they all said they have not seen a better big forward in the game.
          Not sure if that qualifies at good enough, but its a fair start.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 1:49pm
          Johnybulldog said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

          DCE..are u serious?

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2018 @ 1:51pm
            ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

            Johny
            Peter may be a Manly fan. I think if Manly are to have another immortal to join Bozo then it will be Tom Turbo.

            • January 11th 2018 @ 5:05pm
              Norad said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

              This is nonsense. Taumalolo not a “non–Australian”. He is an Australian. Wiki says at age 14 he moved to Townsville. Bozo was born in England. He was the “first non–Australian to be immortalised” if this nonsense is true.

              • Roar Guru

                January 11th 2018 @ 5:20pm
                ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

                Norad
                This underlines are crazy the rules are.
                He could be a Kiwi, a Tongan or an Australian if he wished.
                I think he got it right.

              • January 12th 2018 @ 12:11pm
                Jacko said | January 12th 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

                When did he get it right? When playing for NZ? Tonga? He certainly got it wrong when he chose to re-neg on his word a day or two before the WC started…….only let himself down….

        • Roar Pro

          January 11th 2018 @ 3:06pm
          Adam Hayward said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

          As written in the article, the challenge is longevity and consistency. If he continues to produce the same numbers for the next few years, lead the Cowboys to another premiership and maybe another Dally M, he’d be a shoe-in for rugby league immortality

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2018 @ 5:21pm
            ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

            Adam,
            The scary thing is that his figures continue to get better each year and he was a star at 15.

    • Roar Rookie

      January 11th 2018 @ 8:44am
      up in the north said | January 11th 2018 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      Morning Scott, the immortal headline got my back up initially, but after reading the article it came across well.

      Paul Green has made some very astute decisions during his tenure as coach, one of my favourites was from last season during the Cowbies horror period, the talking heads in commentary were being very critical about Jason doing the first 30 minutes and the last 30. They went on to lament there were only two men left on the bench and the big unit should play more minutes. That rest period must be magical stuff because the second stint always seems to see him more destructive.

      As far as off loading is concerned, all I can add is why would you bother. I mean the guy is making 10 – 15 m per carry, what’s the point of a high risk play when you’re already over the advantage line. Much better to have a quick play the ball and keep hustling uptown with a plan.

      I would like to see him eventually used as more than just impact though, I imagine it will happen eventually – just not quite yet.

      • Roar Pro

        January 11th 2018 @ 3:11pm
        Adam Hayward said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

        I agree that Lolo doesn’t need an off-load at this stage of his career. As long as he can continue to average 10-15m per hit-up and produce quick play-the-balls, the defence will always be on the back foot, allowing JT and Morgan to do their thing

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2018 @ 5:24pm
          ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

          Adam
          He avg. 10.9m per run which is the best for 2017. (Matt Scott actually did 11.5 but he only played 2 games)

      • January 11th 2018 @ 3:43pm
        jimmmie said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

        hi North, just like Big Kev ‘ I’m excited!! Cant wait to see the Cows in 2018. I am starting to get that 2015 feeling again.
        Anyway as far as JT13 goes , the Cows have developed him to perfection. There were always cries for him to play longer minutes but he was just a Pup and ook at what we have now. !
        The Cows are doing the same thing with Hess . Green thought he was too inexperienced for Origin and his form did drop considerably after the Origin period but 2018 will be different. He is an out and out Gun.
        Is JT 13 a future immortal? I have no idea but I would not swap him for any other forward in the NRL.
        Bring it on.

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2018 @ 5:27pm
          ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

          Jim
          Hess does not have the same motor, he can play long mins but not as explosive when he does.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 12th 2018 @ 12:41pm
          up in the north said | January 12th 2018 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

          G’day Jim, yep it’s looking like a deadly season ahead for everyone, some clubs are rebuilding and so on, but generally I can see a closer comp’ coming up. I doubt we’ll see another Storm surge like we just had.
          Enjoy the ride.

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2018 @ 9:01am
      ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      Hi Up
      I am sure you are not the first to raise an eye brow over the headline – that was the purpose!
      Ideally it is ridiculous to even discuss a player as a future immortal at 24 but if (big word if) he maintains his form from recent years he will “walk in”.
      I assume you follow the Cowboys and you would have noted the massive possession they had in the Finals on the way to the GF; that was largely because Green was down on troops and knew he had no hope with only 50% of the ball.
      The strategy he adopted worked brilliantly, but it is a tactic that Craig Bellamy has been using for years.
      I agree with you about Taumalolo as he has a great offload, but a big hit up and quick play the ball is more effective so why change?

    • January 11th 2018 @ 9:34am
      Jeff dustby said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      Thank god the roosters didn’t get him. The guy you mentioned is banned from the game ?

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2018 @ 10:13am
        ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        Jeff
        The Cowboys did a very good job in not only recruiting him, but ensuring he was never going to leave T’ville.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 10:44am
        Greg said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        Yep. Former Roosters recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan was banned from the NRL after having $750,000 transferred to his account by Eddie Hayson over a 10 yr period. What were the payments for?

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2018 @ 10:05am
      BigJ said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

      I remember back in 2009 that several articles and/or statements were made about Jarryd Hayne…look how that turned out. I think that JT 2.0 is a fantastic player and to win a dally m on par with Cooper Cronk is an astonishing achievement. But its way to early to tell if he is at immortal status yet. Plus as the debate continues there are about twenty people ahead of him to be called an immortal. As for being the first non-Australian immortal. Too early to tell.

      I really did enjoy the read, great article

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2018 @ 11:18am
        Nat said | January 11th 2018 @ 11:18am | ! Report

        I’d say one key difference between Hayne and JT13 at the same age is humility. Hayne called Wayne Bennett “disrespectful” for suggesting he was playing for a penalty – which he was. That said, JT13 is largely hidden from the media up north whereas Hayne could always be baited for a quote by the 100 journos in Sydney chasing him around. How does that relate to footy? Arrogance in a team environment. Corey Parker was shunned in Brisbane and Qld for a long time for similar issues but after he matured a bit, best Lock in the game for years.

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2018 @ 11:49am
          BigJ said | January 11th 2018 @ 11:49am | ! Report

          Your absolutely correct Nat. Up here is Townsville you very rarely see the Cowboys out and about unless it an official team thing( training, public appearance and games) i met JT 2.0 up here a couple of weeks ago and he is a very quite fellow and a bit shy. I told him about theroar.com.au and the articles about him but he looked pretty disinterested in it and was happy just to mind his own business. Very quite and polite fellow i hope to meet him again this year at a game or function.

          The Cowboys are like the Storm, far enough away from Sydney to avoid cameras and microphones on thier faces everywhere they go but smart enough not to draw unnecessary attention to themselves. Plus they are a very disciplined club.

          • Roar Guru

            January 11th 2018 @ 12:32pm
            Nat said | January 11th 2018 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

            Yeah, the ‘egg throwing’ incident a few yrs back shows he is just a big kid and all that WC Kiwi/Tonga carry on with Kidwell and the players calling him out, he didn’t get involved with words but come game time… Who won that battle?

            • January 11th 2018 @ 4:14pm
              Jacko said | January 11th 2018 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

              True Nat….He did however NEED to say some words…..Hey Coach I am going to play for Tonga….Those words would have helped if they had come months instead of minutes before the team anouncements….I dont care how good a player he is, if you cant take a man at his word then dont take him at all

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2018 @ 2:08pm
        ScottWoodward.me said | January 11th 2018 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

        Big J
        Thanks mate.
        No argument with your comments, but I annalize footy players for a living and have done so for a long time and I have not seen a better big forward.

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